Lauren In Tokyo

Monday, August 11, 2014

Aikido Burnaby Week 4: Julian joins the class

The Saturday Burnaby Yoshinkai class is primarily an adults-only class, so Julian was a bit nervous when he joined us yesterday. We entered the dojo and he introduced himself to Mustard-sensei. Then he chitchatted with sensei for a couple minutes before going into the changing room. There were two guys changing, Jim and Marcus, and we introduced ourselves and began changing into our dogis.

Mustard-sensei burst into the changing room and immediately set the tone for the day with Julian. "Julian, Ando-sensei to watashi to docchi no hou ga kakkou ii desu ka?" (Who is better looking, Ando-sensei or me?) Julian was a little shocked. He said "I don't know" and Mustard-sensei looked at him and then smirked. "Tsukaenai mon da ne. Dakara kodomo kirai." (Completely useless! That's why I hate kids.)

Julian and I bowed in and we met with Judy who was mopping the floor. I introduced Julian and he took over mopping. He did a good job, and got some kudos from the instructors.

We then performed kihon dosa renzoku, a continuous performance of the basic movements which is useful for warming up and putting yourself into the right frame of mind for practice. I don't think they practice kihon dosa renzoku in Burnaby, but I am sure Mustard-sensei knows it, having been an instructor at the Yoshinkan Honbu Dojo. Julian knows the movements and sequence better than I. I stumbled several times while he was fluidly moving between movements.

Class began and perhaps because new students were joining the class Mustard-sensei went through the, now well practiced, introductory instruction. Julian especially liked his Tofu-Butt spiel. When sensei came over to him and asked him to check the consistency of sensei's butt, Julian looked at me and I told him to see if it was hard or tofu-like. He punched his butt and said 'HARD'. Sensei announced "That's right! Maybe you aren't such a useless parasite." Julian laughed again.

Towards the end of class, we were shown the one-handed nikajo wrist lock. I had seen this in videos before, but never been taught it. Starting from a katate-mochi position, shite quickly circles his hand around so that his hand lays on top of uke's wrist. From there, shite just lowers his weight and uke drops or lets go of shite's wrist. The firmer the grip uke has on shite, the harder it is for him to let go. When Julian does this to me, I have no ability to let go. I think it is a combination of my grip and his small wrists. From the nikajo position, I have no strength communicated from my forearm to my fingers to let go, it's as if I'm glued to his arm. He actually ended up throwing me while I was talking to the Judy about it.

On the way home, he was so happy and laughing about all the jokes Mustard-sensei told in class. He must have said Tofu-Butt a hundred times in the car ride home.

We'll be back next week, and we'll stay overnight in Canada so we should be able to take Mustard-sensei out for dinner to say thanks for all he's done for us this summer.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Aikido Burnaby Week 1: You don't have to impress them

I showed up to the dojo on the corner of Edmonds and Canada Way and found myself about an hour early. I parked on the street and knocked on the dojo door and stepped in. Mustard-sensei was there with his uchi-deshi Farshad. Mustard-sensei formed an imposing figure standing in the doorway to his office chatting with a handful of people in the foyer.

The Burnaby Yoshinkai Dojo is an unassuming shop in a tiny strip mall. It's mats are a bit old and flat, and the space is a bit cramped considering how many students show up to work with Mustard-sensei. The dojo is spartan, to say the least, but it provides the basic essentials that are necessary to practice Aikido.

At the start of the class, all students line up in seiza and wait for Mustard-sensei to make his greetings. During the wait, I performed mokusou, which is a simplified meditation where one sits in seiza and sits quietly with eyes closed and focused on proper posture. As such, I didn't really notice if anyone had their eyes open during the wait. After what seemed like several minutes of silent meditation, Farshad barked out the order to bow. As in my own dojo, first to an image of Shioda-kancho, then to the teacher.

One of the first things that struck me was how lively the class was with 'Osu!' shouted by students to punctuate Mustard-sensei's monologue. My class in Japan is downright silent compared to the atmosphere in this dojo. I am making it a point to interject my own 'Osu!' into the atmosphere, if to at least blend in with this raucous culture.

Another thing done differently is the warmup exercises. A good 15 minutes are spent warming up. A whole range of stretches and warmup movements are done, some I've never seen before. Truth be told, it's nice to have a proper warmup routine like this. Our warmup routine at the Aikidoryu hombu dojo consists of seiza, knee-crawling, and taking the kamae stance. The warmup sequence at the Burnaby dojo descends from the Yoshinkan hombu dojo, and it works. I may bring it back to Japan with me, even if just to perform by myself before practice.

After introductions and warmup, Mustard-sensei introduced the first lesson of the day. Shomen-uchi ikkajo osae ni. I was paired with a lady who was also a white belt and we went to work. Unfortunately, for me that meant driving my shomen-uchi deep, and I learned very quickly that the white belts under Mustard-sensei are focusing on form first, so strong attacks such as I am used to throwing and taking in Japan are neither necessary nor desired.

But sensing my mindset, Mustard-sensei paired me with one of his top black belts Girad. I took this as a signal to hack away to my heart's content, and Mustard-sensei did seem pleased to see me diving in with gusto. But after a while, he asked me to slow down and focus on my form. He knows where I am from and who I train with, so there's no need to try to impress him by trying too hard. For the rest of the day I tried but failed to get my strength under control.

At one point, Mustard-sensei asked if I would like to feel his performance of the waza. I jumped at the chance and threw a chop at his head as hard as I could. In a blink of an eye I found myself facedown on the dojo floor with my arm being pinned to the mats. It was great, and there was no pain at all.

Class wrapped up and we lined up to bow out. Mustard-sensei thanked me for making the long trip from Seattle, and I thanked him and all the students for letting me train with them. It was well worth the 3 hour drive up. I changed and headed out to the car looking forward to the next class two weeks away.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Summer in Seattle

It's been such a long time since I last wrote. After the March 11 earthquake I've just not felt the desire to blog too much or even do any gardening since then. But I can't mope around forever, you know?

In the past year Julian joined Aikido and to motivate him I joined up also. In Urayasu we have the luxury of having the top Yoshinkan Aikido teacher living just down the street. Ando shihan runs his dojo just a short 10-minute bike ride away from our house, so instead of joining a karate or jujutsu class with a barely-qualified instructor, we chose to go with aikido. Getting over my prejudice against Aikido was probably the hardest part of that decision.

Julian will be taking his 8th kyu test next weekend and I'm going to sit out my 5th kyu test this summer because I'm actually out of the country. He'll be able to pass the test without any problem, I am confident. His aikido has gotten very good over the past year, especially since we put him in the class 3 days a week.

For work, I am actually in Seattle for a few months. Unfortunately there are no Yoshinkan dojos in the immediate area. There are a few aikido dojos around, notably George Ledyard sensei's AikiEast Dojo which is actually pretty close by where I am on the Eastside. However, the aikido he practices is called Aikikai. Aikikai is to Yoshinkan what Catholicism is to Eastern Orthodox. As a relative beginner I would prefer not to mix styles.

The remaining choice is a dojo almost 150 miles away in Burnaby, Canada. Led by Robert Mustard shihan, Burnaby Yoshinkai is a sort of mecca for aikidoists in North America. He is the infamous hard-assed teacher at the center of Robert Twigger's Angry White Pyjamas. A student under Yoshinkan kancho Gozo Shioda sensei and the fearsome Takafumi Takeno sensei, Mustard-sensei is a 7th dan aikido master. His teaching credentials go way back to the Yoshinkan hombu dojo where he was an instructor of the Tokyo riot police aikido program.

This is a trip I am looking forward to make to visit his dojo and train with him this summer. I have received the necessary warnings that he is a tough, strong teacher and to be careful not to get injured.

Warnings acknowledged, I'm on my summer journey.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Changed the water in the jar

I try to change the water in the tank every two weeks or so. Today was the day, so I also changed the water in the baby fish "tank".

The tank really is just a clear 2 liter Tupperware jar. You can see all those little fishies swimming around in there. They are still less than a centimeter in length.

Scooping the fish out carefully with a little cup, I found that roughly half of them were dead. Was it the cold? Was it the water quality? Was it sickness? Or was it just the way Nature works?

Anyway, the water is clean again and the healthy fish are swimming all around and an occasional dead one floats along the bottom of the jar. There must be 20-30 healthy ones now. That's a cut of around 70% from the first time I culled the fries.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Whooping cough in Japan?

About 15 years ago when I lived in Washington, DC, I came down with a mild case of whooping cough.

Every moment of the day, you feel like you need to cough, and when it finally happens, it is painful and a terrible sound like a goose honking is made.

There was a guy on the train coughing like that. You heard it first here, whooping cough is coming to Japan.


Sunday, February 06, 2011

Baby fish are born

Several of the eggs hatched this morning. But it looks like some of the fish have already died in infancy. We'll push through tonight and see how many of the little buggers are swimming tomorrow morning.


Thursday, February 03, 2011

Something is moving in the eggs!

I took out my old slide loupe to look at one of the eggs clinging to the wall of the tank because I noticed the egg had some black spots. Under magnification, I could see a tiny spine.

Then the spine twitched! I looked at a few other eggs around the tank and saw that they were also blackening. I think we'll have quite a few goldfish very soon, if the parents don't eat them.


Labels: ,